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Frugally Safe Fashion

Written by Mr. WellCultured, Saturday, August 22nd, 2009 in Fashion, The Style Guide

No moneyIf you haven’t noticed from the incessant use of the phrases “now more than ever” and “affordable” in commercials and on the news, we here in the US (and, along with us, many Western companies) are in a recession that some might call an outright depression. This has, of course, hit the fashion industry pretty hard- and it’s also made affording any sort of fashion incredibly hard. In a world like this, it’s very hard to really find a way to find and afford good fashion- so, I’m going to explain how to do it.

Finding Affordable Clothing

Surprisingly, very few companies have had SERIOUS issues with the recession we’re currently in- that is to say, no-one’s really “gone under”, for lack of a better term. What has happened, however, is that many brands are beginning to scale back their more experimental clothing to rather rely on the tried and true- something that, while somewhat depressing in one sense, is also a boon in the other. Clothiers like J.Crew are now beginning to increasingly focus on key pieces like good quality denim, and even the infamously ridiculous Armani Exchange appears to be noticeably becoming more conservative with their new Fall clothing. It’s a fun world, but in some ways, a difficult one.

The first issue is merely finding affordable clothing. Resist the urge to go to Wal*Mart and buy all of your clothing there- while it seems tempting to go to the cheapest place imaginable to buy clothing, it rarely works out well for you in the long run. Rather, the ideal goal is to simply try to find clothing that costs exactly what it is worth- what we might consider our ideal 1:1 ratio- or clothing you can get on a discount.

The key to finding clothing with that “ideal 1:1 ratio” of cost/worth is to simply investigate brands. While designer does not equal quality, the inverse does not apply- non-designer does not instantly mean cheap quality bargain. Rather, look for labels that do what they do well and sell the stuff for reasonable prices. For example, the brand True Religion (a very very high end jeans brand) may seem like they do their jeans well, but with a staggering $300 price tag, they do not become worth their weight. However, despite the rather hefty ~$90 price tag on a pair of J.Crew jeans, these become much more reasonable, pending you get a nice pair- for example, a nice pair of slim fitting dark wash J.Crew jeans will last for years. Though it may seem a little hard to put down $50-$75 on a polo from Ralph Lauren or Lacoste, both companies make clothing that lasts for years- making the price tag much more acceptable.

Still, there is nothing wrong with buying cheaper brands if you can verify the quality. Despite my hatred for the brand as a whole, Old Navy and the Gap are good places to find the absolute basics like t-shirts and undershirts- they may not be name brand, but they function (and hold up) largely the same. Similarly, there is no major sin in going to Target and purchasing some cheap Converse shoes- given their decent construction and rather cheap price, there’s nothing wrong with “going cheap” with them. The key here is to check quality, regardless of the price.

Still, things can be too expensive, which is why this next idea is especially pertinent nowadays: Hit thrift stores and eBay. While it seems silly to buy secondhand clothing, a surprising number of fashionable people do it. As the economy continues to suffer, spoiled women and man-children begin to have to sell off their overpriced clothing- and you can take advantage of their stupidity. On eBay especially, brand names are plentiful- and so long as the seller is legitimate, you can get some absolutely stellar buys for very cheap. So long as you know the brand well enough to know the fit, or get to try your purchase on, there’s no shame in purchasing used.

Knowing when and how to Buy

Another key skill in this economy is merely knowing when and how to buy.

First off, know when sales and discounts apply, and take advantage of them. At the end of any given season, stores try to get rid of their old stock to add new stock- obviously, this is a good time to swoop in and buy these relatively new fashions for very cheap. Similarly, some stores heavily discount their clothing based on random days, holidays, or just general preferences- try to learn what you can about the sales around you. For example, the back-to-school season is often slightly more expensive than immediately after, as a lot of retailers heavily stock up for the (presumed) impending rush of mothers buying their children clothing. Once this rush ends, even adult sizes are sometimes lowered.

Second off, don’t be afraid to use coupons. I’m quite serious here- remember, fashion is about the clothing itself, not paying full price. Check various websites and, if you have the time, use a trashy e-mail and sign up for a bunch of mailing lists. Join Gilt Groupe and similar discounting websites and have them send sale information to you- some sites will send coupons, others sales, but it all works out well.

Knowing What to Buy

This is a bit more theoretical, but quite honestly, arguably the most important: buy long lasting, versatile items.

It may seem tempting to buy into the latest fly-by-night fad- but it doesn’t do well for your wallet. Articles of clothing like skinny jeans and strange colored cardigans may be in at the moment in some circles, but their popularity will eventually fade into obscurity- but basic bluejeans, a good suit, and a nice crisp white shirt will not. Frankly, even if you have a limitless wallet, there’s no point in buying silly trends at this point. A good rule of thumb is to buy things that you genuinely know you’d be able to wear 10 years down the road- while that’s a big number, it keeps you focused on buying only things that really will work now and in the future.

This rule, in its fullest extent, can even affect the way you buy colors: don’t buy a neon green when a black will be much more versatile in the long run. This may seem “boring”, but this really enables you to optimize your wardrobe in a way many people are unable to do: instead of having 300 items of limited use, you can constrain yourself to 30 items of versatility- and you can spend more on them.

In Closing…

In closing, in somewhat of an ironic sense despite the topic of this article, don’t be paranoid of the economy.

There have been a lot of television commercials, news articles, and other media sources making many people in the US (and, again, other countries) very arbitrarily nervous about money for largely no reason. This isn’t entirely terrible (it helps people re-evaluate their financial choices), but it has bad consequences: it leads many people to pointlessly buy clothes that are cheap and of poor quality, really not looking into the true economy of fashion.

By all means, feel free to shop. Feel free to find clothing you like. Still, as you do so, keep worth in your head, and really, avoid being cheap with your money or extravagant with your choices- there’s a happy middle ground.

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One Response to Frugally Safe Fashion

  1. Anonumo says:

    This is a great article, though a friend of me (who seems to be the poorest metrosexual int he world) already had given me this same advice, I just bought 2 shirts at less than 10 bucks each (original price was somewhere around 40 bucks) a week ago.

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